An eerie silence
sirens blaring a constant drone
shards of paper falling like snow
carried by the wind
to places we could no longer go…
Part I: Glen’s Day Planner:
8:25am- I am the Day Planner that keeps Glen Sander’s life in order. My insides consists of a calendar, weekly planner, calculator, ruler and occasionally his flip phone. My body is leather bound with a zipper, keeping everything in its place. And I’m not just an ordinary planner, I am a business man’s planner. A man named, Glen Sanders. He’s an organized, man on a mission kind of go-getter, with a twinge of perfectionism that gets him in trouble from time to time. He won’t step on other people to get to the top though, which sadly, has made his progress a slower one, but he’s a man of faith and believes in karma.
The reason we get along so well and he never leaves me behind is because we understand each other. I like to be treated with tenderness and care, not used for manic scribbles, cross outs and torn pages. The man who sits at the desk next to Glen rips, scribbles and forgets his planner frequently. He also pressed too hard on the pages when he is stressed out. His name is Matt and he’s a decent guy, but frustrates easily, cursing often. He is shaped like a pear and is a messy eater, which causes him to drip ketchup and other delicacies on his Day Planner. Not Glen. Glen writes very gently on my pages and his hand writing is immaculate. People were always very impressed by his penmanship.
Glen is 53 years old, brown thinning hair with some grey strikes on the sides above his ears. He is average in weight and on the smaller side in height. I believe he wrote down in his doc visit notes that he was 5 feet, 7 inches. Glen’s quirk is that he is a people pleaser, causing him to win over the right people, but often at the expense of his own integrity. There have been multiple occasions where Glen had to cancel plans with his family due to an oversight at work. It usually had to do with an error in Matt’s paperwork. Matt is the nephew of Stanley Smulders, Vice President (aka: bossman), so when he asked Glen for help, Glen felt obligated. Plus bossman doesn’t allow company investors to use his nephew as a scapegoat. Bossman lives in denial and is constantly lurking in the shadows of other people’s glory. He rarely came in during the beginning of the week, but today he is here running meetings.
So here sits Glen Sanders, staring out the window of the Daehan Investment Trust Company, on the 84th floor of WTC 1, contemplating his next move with the company he’s been dedicated to for the past 21 years. God knows his family needed him desperately these days. The numbers on Glen’s flip-phone made his grin twitch.
8:40am: Glen let out a long sigh, thinking, ‘… and it’s only Tuesday… this week is dragging…’ His mind shifted to his wife, Dana as he glanced down at me, unzipped my binding, placed the flip-phone inside ‘maybe I will cook her fresh lobster instead…’ He flipped it open, pressed the right arrow, displaying the “calendar” face, his anniversary plans with Dana. His knees bounced as he fidgeted in his Ergo chair, contemplating his plans for a romantic dinner. Romance had never been his strong suit, but he figured after thirty years of marriage, he would give it a try. He began to scribble down something on part of my notepad, then stuck the paper on cell and flipped it closed again. This must be an important note, because he only does this when he really doesn’t want to forget something. I guess he figures, he opens me so frequently, he won’t miss the note if he puts it under the cell flap. He dug out his wallet family picture of him, his wife, two little girls, Susan, age 4 & Mary, 7 and his son, Jacob, 12. The smile was the first I’ve seen in a while. Last week bossman gave him the good news about his promotion. Thank God!’ He reminisced, as he pressed his lips up for a rewarding kiss from his cup of Joe.
8:46am- Plane crashes into north tower
The tragedy began with an eruption, shaking the entire office. Immediately followed by the sound of screaming.
A few west coast natives presumed it was an earthquake maybe around a 4, maybe 4.5 on the Richter scale.
But the locals were more skeptical. “It’s no earthquake. Those screams came from up above us!” A lady in a red business suit shouted pointing to the ceiling. She was the new young and perky secretary of the office.
Bossman responded immediately with calm arrogance, “Yes, they did.” He looked up and squinted his eyes. “A fire in the kitchen? I hope everyone is okay.”
It got quiet again.
“Oh God, I hope everyone is okay up there…” She looked worried.
“Don’t worry Mary, this is NYC. We haven’t had an earthquake since the 1880s and it was on Long Island Sound, barely touching the Ramapo Fault Zone, so… everyone back to work!”
The hustle of people working on computers, rummaging through documents and chatting about business resumed as usual and people looked relatively calm.
Stanley was a man of great integrity and wanted to be sure his staff was safe, so he looked out the window. Same old blue skyline. He couldn’t see anything unusual, except one puff of smoke around the corner of his office, so he ran to the other side, tracking the cloud of smoke, until, suddenly, debris flying through the air, and then, something startling caught his gaze causing him to retreat back to his desk, collect a few things and head straight to the door, eyes wide with fear. “We need to leave. NOW!” He asserted to his staff who were now huddled in the center meeting room looking out the windows or trying to get cellphone reception. The south side of the tower had terrible reception. His usual calm demeanor vanished and his arms shook as he gathered his briefcase, grabbed his keys and commanded more forcefully, “NOW!”
Glen’s desk neighbor, Matt, dropped his bagel and shouted, “Shit, what the…what did you see?” Breadcrumbs rolling down from his mouth, onto his shirt.
No Answer. His deafening silence and panicked expression let his colleagues know something was seriously wrong here. Some confused discussions of possibilities verbalized frantically as they raced to the doors, while others remained silent and determined to find the nearest exit.
Matt locked a perplexed gaze on Glen, whose hands were shaking, coffee spilling along the sleeve of his white collared shirt. The coffee stain ran perpendicular to the thin black and blue stripe imprints running vertically down his shirt. Some dripped on me and his other desk mates; the pen holder, his paperwork, the mouse pad, just missing the computer. He picked me up, opened the flap of the cell to check on his note, which was still dry, so he shut the flap and just wiped the front face briefly cutting himself off mid-curse, “Ah shi…”, he struggled to stand up due to nerves. Or was it the rumbling again? What was happening? He thought as his heart picked up speed. Being a proud father, he was so accustomed to not allowing swears to leave his lips. As he looked around, he saw that it was the chairs, the desks, in fact, the whole building that was shaking. Could it be an earthquake? No, not in NY… As the fire alarm sounded, the pace picked up and people started pushing and shouting at each other as they raced down the hallway, now more nervous than before. He looked at the exit, now crowed with staff following bossman down the hallway. Why are some people freaking out, don’t they know to remain calm in a drill? I am sure there was an accident upstairs, maybe a fire in the ‘Windows of the World’ cafe, but we will be fine. What startled bossman so much in the window? I didn’t see anything… His thoughts remained unvoiced but he could hear people around him asking similar questions.
“Why all the panic? We will be fine.” Mary said flapping her hand through the air as she spoke, “Stanley is just over reacting because he’s stressed this week. If you ask me, I think the man needs a vacation!” Her red dress was more revealing than Glen remembered from the last time she wore it last week, but maybe he just didn’t notice her as much because they rarely crossed paths in the office.
He made a point not to look down at her chest as she spoke. He was a man of dignity and felt frustrated that her perky breasts were practically falling out of her dress. He decided he must be tired and since he spilled his coffee he started to head towards the staff lounge to refill. The small TV was on and people were huddled around it, watching. On the screen an image of the towers were visible, our tower, WTC north with a giant hole and smoke billowing out.
8:50am- A security guard called out to us, waving to hurry and announced that a plane had crashed between the 93rd and 99th floor and to clear out immediately. Glen heard someone in the crowd say, “The rumble was from the plane crash above but that we would all be fine, we just need to get out of the building. These towers were made pretty much indestructible due to the skeleton steel structure format…”
“So what does that mean?” Someone shouted out. “It’s so hot in here. What’s that terrible smell?” and more wretched screams.
No one wanted to talk about the screaming.
“It means that unless something happens to the bottom, like an explosion or something, the tower will not collapse. We will be fine. Just pray for the people above us. I am sure the chopper will come and rescue the rest of them…” Beads of sweat dripped down the man’s chin as he removed his jacket. “We just need to get out and we will be fine.” He sounded as if he was trying to reassure himself.
Click. A calm voice came over the loud speaker, “Attention… Attention…. Please remain calm. Due to the falling debris, everyone please stay do not leave the building until we have clearance from the fire marshal. It is not safe to leave the building. Again, please remain calm and wait for further instructions.” Click.
A sense of serenity came over the office and people appeared more relaxed, shoulders dropped, sighs of relief came over the crowd and people started making phone calls letting families know they were alright.
Glen heard Matt’s voice close by, “…yes, yes, I am fine, don’t worry. We have been told to remain inside. I guess it’s more dangerous out there than in here!” He let out a nervous laugh. Long pause. “I am not going to do that honey, it’s not safe. Trust me, we are fine.” Another pause, this time we can hear shouting on the other end of the phone. “Okay, alright, fine. Yes, I will head down.” He rolled his eyes and headed for the nearest elevator.
8:57am- Glen checked his cellphone, still no reception. He tucked my note page reminders into the cell flap, zipped me up and continued walking, glancing into adjacent offices as he kept the pace of the crowd. Most people were still hesitant to leave their posts, maybe they were just following orders but it seemed strange that more people were not at least trying to get lower. Glen didn’t want to be anywhere near the 93rd floor and as the stamping got louder and the ceiling plaster began to crumble, they exchanged more expressions of bewilderment. Glen saw pieces of rubble flying through the skies like birds diving for fish in the water. The image was mesmerizing and terrifying at the same time. Then, like a snow storm, burnt papers drizzled out the window and drifted out into the rest of the world. The world outside this nightmare. The world of the watchers, peering from the streets. Watching, but also keeping their distance, praying for the people here in this burning building.
Everyone was blaming air traffic control. Glen heard someone say, “How could they let an airplane get so off course?”
“I don’t know. Don’t worry about it. Let’s just hang in the lobby until they say we can leave.”
“That’s where I’m heading.”
More quizzical chatter broke out among the crowd and then rose to roaring rumble when they heard ear piercing screams from upstairs. Agony, the screams were people suffering and Glen wanted to help them, but he felt powerless. What could he do? Where were the screams coming from? There were so many. Not like in the movies were the hero hears one cry and follows it until he finds him buried in rubble and then rescues him to safety. The situation felt much more hopeless. The air was becoming thick with smoke and it was hard to see. He looked up and saw cracks in the ceiling as he ran with the crowd, elbow to elbow. One man nearly trampled a woman who was having trouble keeping pace. Glen helped her to her feet. She was middle aged, with red hair which was covered in suit and ash. She was drenched from the sprinklers and shaking. “Are you okay?” Glen asked.
The rim of her dusty glasses fell to the bottom of her nose and slid off and she scooped them up and wiped off the grim. “I keep wiping them, but they just get dirty again…” She caught her breath and held so tightly onto Glen he may have lost circulation in his hand, but of course, he didn’t notice. She was now sobbing and Glen had to help her remain on her feet. “I…I…I saw…”
Glen interrupted, “Shhh, we are going to be okay. Don’t worry. We will get out of here.”
9:03am- Plane crashes into South Tower
9:15am- Lights flickered in the hallway as the crowd made their way towards the elevators and stairs. A group of seven made it to the south elevator and when inside, Glen dropped me into his briefcase and tucked it under his arm so he could plug his ears and press the L button for “Lobby”. Matt’s arm reached into the elevator just as door was about to close. “WAIT…” He shouted and squeezed in, nodding and mouthing the words thank you to Glen. A couple who had just been on a WTC tour starting asking questions we couldn’t answer like, “Whats going on? What is happening?”
No one seemed to know what to say. The elevator moved down, floor 83…82…81…
When the group kept quiet, Glen spoke to the couple in a reassuring tone, “Did you hear the announcement? Everything is going to be fine. Let’s just head to the Lobby and see what’s going on down there. I am sure they will know more than we do.”
A few men from the upper floors were soaked with water from the sprinklers arguing over whether or not another plane crashed, this time into the south tower, “Seriously, look, here, my cell is working…”
“Bullshit!” The man with black glasses and a clean shaved pointy chin responded anxiously as he reached for the phone.
Sure enough, there was Katie Couric announcing that another plane crashed into the south tower.
Glen and the other seven people on the elevator exchanged terrified glances, know knowing this was no accident. Some crazy people were trying to destroy these towers. The US was under attack. Katie Couic’s words, “…terrorists…” kept echoing in Glen’s mind. He couldn’t fathom what he was hearing. Is this really happening? Terrorists are attacking the buildings? The elevator continued going down,74…73….72…71… until it began to wobble and then freeze. Glen’s temperature rising, heart racing, when he asked,“What’s happening?”
Most of the people in the elevator had removed their jackets and the temperature went up at least 10 degrees with everyone squeezed together in fear and anxiety. They were so close to their refuge… The elevator was only a few feet from the next floor, so there was a large gap between floor and elevator ceiling. The voice of a janitor from up above caused Glen to raise his brows, look up, squint and prop up on his toes.
The sound of a power drill startled the lady in the red suit. Glen turned and saw it was Mary. How come he didn’t see her before? She caught her breath, “What’s that?”
As if answering her, a bolt dropped by her foot and Matt said, “Someone’s removing the ceiling’s safety hatch.” He circled around her, pointing to the ceiling as another bolt fell, almost landing on the toe of her high heel shoes.
Glen coughs twice and looks up, a flashlight hit his pupils too fast, causing his eyes to blink. Behind the light was Gonzalez, whom Glen recognized from those late nights spent at the office.
He was always a little shabby looking, often unshaven and heavy bags under his eyes, but today he looked worse. Hair was wild, beads of sweat dripping down his forehead, skin beat read and his breathing heavy as if he had just ran a marathon.
“Gonzalez, what’s going on up there?” Glen asked.
“Don’t panic, I locked the elevator, but y’all need to get out, now” he responded calmly as he lay down on his stomach and reached out his hands. Glen motioned for Mary to go first. Matt offered his back for her to climb on. She hesitated but kicked off her heels, climbed on Matt’s back, reached her hands to Gonzalez and in seconds, was lifted up onto the next floor. “The South stairwell looks good. We are going to make our way down, that way instead.” He shouted as he continued pulling people to safety. There was a moment where nothing was happening, there were still four people left in the elevator. Glen could hear chatter and then Gonzalez letting them know a fireman was here to help.
9:40am- One by one they helped each other, bodies on backs, then shoulders. They were pulled up by now two firemen. The screaming and stomping around from above didn’t stop, but this group remained incredibly calm and efficient. Once all eight people were pulled up to safety they stayed together, except the first two, a couple from the tour group, who ran the opposite way to try to avoid the crowd. They were holding hands and running to the left stairwell.
9:59am- The South Tower collapses
As soon as the couple made it to the stairwell, something came crashing through the windows and they immediately turned back around and were coughing uncontrollably and struggling to breathe. Windows were breaking from the south tower collapse and a pillar fell over, dividing the people by smoky stairwell and the rest of us, who were still near the elevators. The couple still struggled to breath so they stuck their heads out the window where the glass was blown out. The man took his overcoat off and started waving it around in the air. He thought he heard the sound of a rescue chopper up above.
10:02am– “Help! Please help us!” screamed the lady next to him. The couple and a small group of people were still trapped, between the now flaming pillars and the blown away stairwell, now a cliff-like structure of doom. So they both hung their heads out of the broken window, waving and screaming for help.
Everything was happening in blinks.
Glen sees the couple waving and then another man starting to climb out the window, possible onto chopper… the man jumped… Was there a chopper? Glen didn’t see one. Did the man survive? There must be a rescue team…Glen thought.
Glen tried to peek through the crowd but a larger man bumps into him going the opposite direction, “Move it, let’s go, let’s go…” pushing him into the crowd of people and like one giant wave, they poured down the hallway, tripping and cursing, some struggling to stay standing.
10:20am- Suddenly a thick cloud of smoke covered their bodies and they became very hot, very fast and struggled, coughing and gagging for oxygen. As lights and glass exploded and, windows broke, piercing their eardrums a constant ringing remained. The fire alarm now blended in with the other sounds and people really began to panic. Some women were saying prayers, a couple of men were cursing strange obscenities telling everyone to shut up and just focus on getting down, some were chanting repeatedly, “Are we gonna die? I don’t want to die!”
The severity of the situation was setting in and the outlook was grim. Glen was shell shocked and his whole body went numb. The noise blended into an ominous silence as unzipped me one last time, thoughts racing, Is this really happening? I am going to wake up and this is going to be a terrible nightmare…but just in case… he found a wallet family picture of his wife and 4 children, kissed it and said a prayer aloud this time he shouted, “I love you so much!”
10:28am- North tower collapses
As they took their last breaths, screams, and cries on their descend to an early grave, the floors collapsed on each other one by one and in a matter of seconds, everything had turned to clouds of dust.
PART 2:The Day Planner’s Journey:
10:30am- Next thing I knew, I was covered in thick ash and smog. I was not in the briefcase, I was missing my binder, and the rest of my pages had vanished. I felt lighter, somehow. I was floating down the street, only a scrap of paper. I have never been a scrap before. Glen always took such good care of me. He kept his life in my hands, literally, except my hands are pages and my pages are gone now. This certainly was not part of his plans- Glen vanishing to dust? He always took care of everyone else, his wife…his children… even Bossman’s nephew, Matt, who is dust too now. Who will organize a shopping list and pick up groceries for Dana and the kids? Who will order pizza for the kids on your ‘Friday pizza night’ ? His life was so much more than what could have been written on my various faces. But I am only a scrap now. Where is the rest of me? Why do I feel this way? Is this what the people call feelings? Am I experiencing an emotion? I am lost without Glen. This is a fact. I hope something important is written on what’s left of me. I want to matter. I want this all to mean something. But how can it, they are gone. Mary, (the young attractive lady in the red business suit), Matt, (the slob & Bossman’s nephew), Stanley (Bossman), Gonzalez (the janitor for our offices), The firemen who came to the rescue when elevator stopped working, the couple that were visiting on a tour, and so many others…
11:04am- Life? Where is life? So much smoke. The air is thick with it and other pieces of debris swim through it like fish underwater, moving with the tide. Everything burned and grey and an ominous stillness. I still hear firetruck sirens but does that guarantee men are still alive or is the siren just continuing to beckon false hope? The sky was bright blue and beautiful from Glen’s window just a few hours ago. Suffocating smog engulfs the survivors. They emerge covered in grey ash, like ghosts, drifting in and out of sight, startled relief as strangers embrace, helping each other over the debris & rubble. The whites of their eyes so strikingly bright and filled with hope, because everything else is so grey, so dark, so bleak.
The windstorms of rubble keep ash covered people running, looking like zombies, struggling to breath. A pastel white woman with thick glasses covered in ash, whispering to herself in Hebrew, “Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu…” A large gust of wind sticks me onto a fireman’s cheek, which is covered with third degree burns. He is mumbling, “I gotta go back, I gotta go back. There are still people in there…” he was pointing towards the towers as if they were still in tact. Another man was shaking him by the shoulders telling him to “let it go, they are gone… there is nothing we can do now…” The brief inflection whiffs me back into the air to be carried faster through the hot, smokey winds of loss and destruction.
1:35pm- A young baby girl crying is for her mother. She is lost.
2:20pm– I hear a young woman in scrubs state through stuttered speech and tears that she saw people dropping from windows, hand in hand or solo, like tear drops.
3:15pm– I continue to drift as minutes turn to hours I begin to wonder if anyone will find me…
4:05pm- I drift on through the smog, floating over rooftops, porches and into back alleyways. I float through the streets that used to be packed shoulder to shoulder with diversity of culture- so much vibrance & life. The streets are so empty and there is an eerie stillness in the air. I am floating on for miles and miles but the panic never stops; sirens still blaring, horns honking, people crying and screaming, looking for loved ones, hoping…
5:20pm- WTC 7 Collapses
My edges are torn and burnt and I wonder if the words written on my face mean anything now. I ponder this while drifting closer and closer to the Brooklyn Bridge, where thousands of people are walking to get out of the city. I am drifting in a heat wave of grey, brushing up against shoulders, hats, and heads, until I find myself landing softly on a park bench covered in ash.
One woman is sitting beside me. Long dreadlocks drape over her shoulders as she holds her face in her hands and closes her eyes, trying to block out the disturbing images running rampant through her mind. People jumping from windows, burned and bleeding faces running from buildings, firemen going into them, only to become crushed by the structure’s brutal collapse.
She kept wondering why, with our government and military, being as powerful as they are, why they did not interfere? Why were they ordered to stand down? Why were the people in the buildings told to stay inside? Why did building seven collapse pancake style at 5pm, and why did the media take their focus away from that incident shortly after covering the events? A smoking gun perhaps? Why did the owner of the towers take our Terrorism insurance months before the attack? Why aren’t more officials asking the right questions? Why is our president talking about going to war in Iraq? Something is not right here. Something worse than I want to believe has happened and our country will never be the same again.
She picked me up and flattened the crinkles on on my withered body. Yes, I am still just a small scarp like a hundred thousand other scraps floating around, but she noticed something special about me, probably because Glen always wrote so neat on my pages! She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand which was less dirty than her suet caked palms and fingers.
She read the message left on my face just moments before the world changed forever… Friday: Take kids to Chuckie Cheese for Pizza Night; Saturday: Celebrate anniversary… make her favorite… or surprise her with Lobster from… the rest of the note was missing. She placed her hand to her mouth and tried to imagine who Glen was and who would be grieving for him so terribly today. She suppressed her cries with her hand, but could not stop the tears from falling from her eyes.
She held me tight in her hand, and at last, Glen’s message on this little scrap, finally got heard, and I was free.
Chorus from a song I wrote:
if the world turned grey
If they took it all and left you alone
would you stand up tall
fight for the colors
as they fall
or would you, like the rest
just fade away?
if the world turned grey
(you can find whole piece on my blog… https://anissazucker.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/if-the-world-turned-grey/)
This story is dedicated to all those brave men and women who risked their lives doing God’s word and to all the families who lost loved one on that day. It is also dedicated to the Steering Family Committee, who continue to fight for an independent investigation of the attacks on 9/11/2001.
Architects & Engineers for Truth
Firemen for Truth
Pilots for Truth
Families for Truth
Listen to Rodriguez account of 9/11 – HE WAS THERE!! My character, Gonzalez was based on Rodriguez’s story.
Eyewitness : David Long